The place of religion within Balhe society

Concening the Societies and cultures found on Kalieda

The place of religion within Balhe society

Postby Rik on 18 Dec 2008, 12:53

Four great strands of religious belief intertwine to form the bedrock of Balhe Society's mythology and spirituality, with two strands dominant. These can be summarised as:

  • the creator stories
  • the great punishment myths
  • the starman beliefs
  • folk spirits

In Balhe Society, the creator stories form the basis of the officially approved form of religious observance, particularly in the western Lands, while veneration of folk spirits is the norm at the domestic level. The creator - called Jaakra in the Gevey language - is a monotheistic, benign supreme being. The essence of the central creation myth tells how Jaakra created the planet, sun, stars and the cosmos from his (literally "its") thoughs and voice, as a home for himself. He then decorated his new home with life. The first attempt (which includes the bulk of the planet's lifeforms) was not satisfactory to Jaakra, who then created disease, dacay, destruction and death to make space for his second attempt - humanity-centred lifeforms. Once this work was completed, Jaakra withdrew to his fortress of fire and ice within the bounds of the Roof of the World, where he sits still in contemplation and grace. Occasionally, Jaakra is roused to visit his creation, giving blessings (which sometimes have unforseen, unfortunate outcomes) as he sees fit.

In the Jaakrisme religion, there is no life after death or melding with the godhead, nor any reincarnation - though some dispute this. Jaakrisme is worshipped mainly in temples and convents. Prayer and contemplation is principally directed at trying to understand the purpose of the creation, and of humanity's place within it. Temples and convents also play a role in education, healing, and artistic and scientific endeavour.

Jaesconesh - a harsher (purer) form of Jaakrisme based on the teachings and writings of the Seer Ganuete and his disciples - is the official religion in the Lands of Frheete and Nuulime. The followers of the Seer Mi'huede follow a similar, more recent interpretation of Jaesconesh in the Land of Illhush.

In other Lands, while Jaakrisme may fill the ritualistic and philosophical needs of Balhe Society, it lacks the structure to fulfill people's everyday spiritual requirements. For these, many people turn to the complex and dynamic world of the folk spirits. These spirits can be broken into three main groups:

  • archetypes such as Sam-loivjahre (Big Man Sam) and Thoel-sastrhivde (the Corn Bird)
  • geographicals - stretches of river will have a spirit, as will significant geographical features such as hills, springs, caves, etc
  • hearth guardians - every family will have its own guardian, often a family totem or relic. The concept also extends to towns and cities, longstanding workgangs, guilds and businesses, sports teams and drama companies, etc.

The spiritual tradition of folk spirits is almost entirely oral and ad-hoc, with worship being in the form of placation prayers and small offerings. Carved or metalworked representations of given spirits are commonly worn, and stories featuring folk spirits are often retold in their honour.

At the more exotic end of this religious spectrum can be found a number of cults and secret societies based on the belief that folk spirits are able to posess a draafethe (shaman), who can then perform magic. Most people avoid such groups, and draafethem are often considered to bring misfortune to a community that tolerates their presence.

The other two strands of religious beliefs which impact on Balhe society (the starman beliefs and the great punishment myths) are more peripheral, their main impact being in their inclusion within some of the folk spirit stories to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the storyteller). Everyone is aware of these stories but few give them great credence. Their impact in the philosophical debates in Gevey society are negligible. Indeed, the starman beliefs are considered to be an Istran import, while the great punishment myths are viewed as being Vreski, and thus nothing more than superstition.

In fact, the only significant Vreski Society religious practice surviving in Balhe Society nowadays is the association of wearing certain colours, metals and jewels on various occasions. This practice, originally a complex warding system to protect the wearer from the attention of leshpesh (demons), has now mingled with the folk spirit beliefs, with stories being devised to explain why these practices arose.

Recently, some scientists (particularly in the fields of archaeology abd biology) have raised the possibility that there may be a seed of truth deep within the starman beliefs to help explain their empirical findings, such as the two competing ecosystems (with their varying amino acids and nucleic acids). This is, of course, a very controversial point of view.
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